At the time of this writing, Chef Ted entertains while teaching a cooking class called “Name that Fish Stew!” It’s a lesson for defining various types of simmering fish dishes from different cultures, namely bouillabaisse, cioppino, and New England fish stew.
In addition to assorted shellfish Chef Ted claims water fish is the universal ingredient.
Before we were married, this somewhat typic term calls us to attention while we are working with Chefs Sing and Ming at a resort hotel in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
From the resort’s hot kitchen Sing and Ming feed six hundred mouths--all at once, three times a day for the duration of a long, hot summer.
Wearing a slight smile, Sing‘s demeanor seems rational and serene, as each day he proves relatively calm. Ming, whose broad shoulders and stoutness are camouflaged under his “whites”, proffers a stern, opposite countenance.
The atmosphere in this pressure-cooker scullery not only simmers, it sometimes intensifies to a boil. Notably Sing, during one routine summer luncheon, literally blows his top.
In this old, non-air-conditioned hotel, the chefs serve from stations, where overhead a blackboard hangs scribbled with the name of their dish.
One day in this kitchen Sing scrambles eggs and Ming makes manicotti.
At the "front-of-the-house” maître d’, Sol Hotchkiss, and hostess, Linda, greet and direct their onslaught of guests. The "busboys" pour water and bring bread, along with matzah, matzo, or matsoh--someone always complains about the menu spelling--as the wait staff hands out menus and hauls in orders.
In the kitchen at the “back of the house”, waiters and waitresses whose patrons order manicotti, line up in the MANICOTTI line--which unbeknownst to Sing is over his head.
For a while as each server approaches and places an order of however-many manicotti plates, Sing--who is busy scrambling eggs--points, and in his pronounced Chinese accent responds,
“Manicotti oveh deh. Next.”
Several more times the waitstaff repeatedly approach Sing, and Sing repeatedly responds,
“Manicotti oveh deh! Next!”
Through all of this, Ming, who has been deluged with SCRAMBLED EGG requests which of course Sing is serving, has a much higher level of tolerance. After each egg appeal he merely cocks his head with a motion to Sing.
Since he is usually calm, Sing’s frustration is notably ramped and noticed by everyone, as he picks up the giant pan of scrambled eggs and with it gestures,
“Manicotti oveh deh!”
Finally, after the next exasperating request for manicotti, Sing grasps and flings the colossal skillet full of scrambled eggs. It sails through the steamy air and clubs the last, seemingly offensive and departing waiter behind the knees, who then, from his writhing position on the floor, meekly points to the chalkboard above Sing that mistakenly—or deliberately—broadcasts MANICOTTI.
Not too long afterwards, everyone calms down and later that day for dinner, Ming makes and serves FISH OF THE DAY, and the sign is correct.
During this dinner hour, Ming has several servers who, when they pick up the fish of the day, repeatedly ask,
“What kind of fish is this?”
“What is this fish?”
"Is this cod?"
Ming in particular does not like servers who are unprepared and have not read the night's complete menu, and though his antics are less physical than Sing’s, they are devilish. He toys with the servers, all in good humor and without anger, and with ruses he often makes the kitchen staff howl.
So Ming calmly and firmly in his own distinct accent, snickers with each cloned response to the fish question,
“Iss wohtah fish. Next!“
MUSIC TO COOK BY
Wood-Roasted Salmon with White Wine Sauce and Chive Oil
2-3 oz. fresh salmon fillet per person
S&P as needed
3 tbs. grape seed or olive oil (not extra virgin)
Stovetop smoker with alder wood
1 oz. fresh chives, chopped into half-inch lengths
1/4 c. olive oil
3 leaves fresh spinach, optional for color
1/4 c. white wine
1.5 tbs. shallots, finely chopped
3/4 c. fresh tomato, finely chopped
3/4 c. light olive oil
1 tbs. truffle oil
salt to taste
Salmon: In a stovetop smoker over a low-medium flame, add alder wood (preferable), and smoke according to instructions for 1-2 minutes. Remove and season salmon with salt and pepper. Place in skillet with hot oil and sear for about one minute on each side. Place in a preheated 400-degree oven for about two minutes.
Pureé chives, olive oil, and spinach in a blender. Stain through a fine sieve. Cover overnight.
Sauce: Place white wine in a saucepan and add shallots. Over low heat reduce the wine by half. Add remaining ingredients. Add salt to taste. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated.) Serve at room temperature.
Place salmon on a plate and drizzle with sauce and a little chive oil. Serve with roast potatoes and asparagus.